The band may only be a couple years old, but Slack Bridges already feels like a well-seasoned veteran of the music scene here in Ottawa. Even though the band is fresh off the release of its debut full-length Joy of Joys, it has already sent shock waves throughout the capital.
This is what happens when musical masterminds from all corners of Ottawa’s music community come together to present something altogether original, breaking new ground by fusing hip hop, soul, and jazz fusion influences into tracks that burst at the seams with ear-pleasing tones. After only a few shows and the release of their first EP in 2016, Slack Bridges quickly caught the year of large-scale festival organizers as they got included on lineups at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, House of PainT, Ottawa Race Weekend. They also were the main attraction at last year’s independent festival called Bangers & Mash, a soul-focused weekend-long party co-organized by band member Garett Bass himself.
Slack Bridges performed at this year’s House of PainT Urban Art Fest this past August. Photo by Kelly Morrissey.
Joy of Joys is indeed a full album. It is a front-to-back trip that explores different soundscapes and textures, pleasing listeners with dance-inducing bangers like “In The Drought” as well as teasing us with down-tempo ballads such as “Smile.” Guitarist Chris Elms puts his dexterous guitar work on full display throughout the ten-track journey that is Joy of Joys, from providing grimy and emotive riffs that explode off the record in “Jungle” to sultry tones that seduce the listener deeper into tracks like “Apologies.”
Vocalist Matt Gilmour’s infectious deep vocal prowess is an undeniable x-factor in this band, and without detracting from the group’s talents, his voice and persona are front and centre on the record and the stage. You wouldn’t first think of him as a former member of bands in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scenes, but his influences are many. His appreciation for R&B and hip hop rhythm come across immediately, and his unique vocal tones and style lend perfectly to the rest of the band’s impressive instrumental chemistry. Not to mention his subtle moves on stage give crowds even more to scream for (see video below—just wait for it).
All in all, Joy of Joys is the record Ottawa needs, wants, and will cherish. The band spent a lot of time and energy into crafting their identity, sound, and style—and it shows. It really feels as though they took a “why stop here?” approach to this record, and the seamless inclusion of brass parts from local visionaries Ed Lister and Julian Selody exemplifies the level of musicianship this band is operating at. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Be sure to pick up Joy of Joys on vinyl at local record shops around town now, which they recently released on November 11th at a sold-out show at The Rainbow. It is also available digitally here.
Watch their Shot in the Dark performance and stream Joy of Joys below.
Sure, Kanata is where you’ll find a lot of business parks and stereotypical quiet suburban neighbourhoods. But it’s also where you’ll find Big Rig Brewery, and we’ve teamed up with them to bring a brand new music series. On April 30, we’ll be utilizing Big Rig’s beautiful and newly renovated Tap Room space to bring you an evening filled with delicious craft beer tastings, brewery tours, and great bands that will make a fan out of you.
The inaugural Tap Room Session a few months back was a huge success. Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators even made an appearance, which was a nice surprise for many of the guests who got to meet him! Amos the Transparent set the tone of the night, digging deep into their catalogue and playing an incredible set. Below you can check out a short video filmed during the first Tap Room Session in January.
This time around, Ottawa’s soul kings The Split will be taking the torch and providing the night’s entertainment. The Split are no strangers to the stage, and are a sure bet to spice up the vibe at Big Rig Brewery. This band could get the crowd at a funeral dancing, and they are primed to funk the place up as attendees try out Big Rig’s impressive selection of award-winning beer.
Passes are selling quickly, but we have you covered – we’re giving away two pairs of tickets to a couple lucky folks.
Simply tweet the name or post a picture on Instagram of your favourite Big Rig beer along with the hashtag #taproomsessions. We’ll scour all those who used the hashtag and enter for a chance to win! If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account, email us the answer to music [at] ottawashowbox.com. The draw will be taking place on Sunday, April 17 at noon. Good luck!
Yes, believe it or not – Ottawa’s got soul. On a chilly Friday in January, many of us braved the cold and trekked down to Rideau Street in order to congregate at the small, but tried-and-true Café Dekcuf. One thing about this place is that it isn’t a venue that most music patrons in the scene tend to visit often. Maybe it gets a bad rap for whatever reason, being somewhat awkwardly located directly above Mavericks. It’s also pretty chilly and drafty in the winter. However, since I started Showbox nearly four years ago, I can’t think of one bad show I’ve seen there. This night was no exception.
The lot of us were in for a night of funk, soul, and RnB jams. It was also a night of old and new, as soul music veterans Old Stereo and DJ Magnificent (Double Barrel) were also on the bill. Needless to say, the excitement was building. The drinks were flowing, and Magnificent was setting the tone by spinning his most excellent collection of funky 45s.
Slack Bridges is a brand new super group of sorts. Frontman Matt Gilmour (vocals), as with the other three guys in the band, have been involved in Ottawa’s music community for a long time. He has been involved in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scene for over a decade in various capacities, playing in bands such as HAMILTON, I Refuse, We The Accused, and more recently, Heavy Bedroom.
Garett Barr (bass guitar) is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and previously lent his skills to bands Mackenzie Rhythm Section and Tea for the Voyage. Currently, Barr also plays guitar and ukelele in the rising folk group STEAMERS, and teaches music relentlessly through Big ARTS. Paul Ross (drums) has played in many bands, but more recently played in the long standing indie-rock act, The Gallop.
Marcus Ward (keys) is a seasoned piano player, who has played in The Ethics and currently plays in a ‘yacht-rock’ cover group called PleasureCraft alongside Dave Lauzon of Lauzon Music and Matt Corbiere of Winchester Warm. Chris Elms (guitar) is a master of his craft, and has played in numerous blues and soul acts over the years. In his younger days, he even lent his beat-making and production skills to a few tracks featuring the Tupac-era California rap group The Outlawz.
Needless to say, this band contains some experience.
As the band took their positions on stage, there was excitement and nervousness in there air – no one really knew what to expect. These are great musicians, but who knew where this new direction would take them and what it would sound like? The first measure of the opening track “Beholden” put our anxieties at ease and soothed our minds, bodies, and souls. James’ intricate guitar flares and Barr’s groovy, funk-laden bass lines immediately got the bodies moving on the floor in front of them.
Cue Gilmour’s vocals. Who knew that a guy who cut his teeth in the early 2000’s underground punk and hardcore scenes could belt out soulful, RnB-inspired vocal melodies? Those close to him know that he’s been experimenting with this kind of vocal style for a while now, particularly in his other project Gold Bonds. Slack Bridges is a clear progression for him musically, as he seemed to easily shake off his nerves and explode with vocal energy. His vocals are unique, and he displayed an incredible amount of control as the songs were played live for the first time. Not to mention the sound in Dekcuf was on-point.
Other notable tracks that stood out were “Lion City”, “Smile But It’s Been a While”, and the irresistibly catchy “On My Wings.” One special treat during the set was their cover of “Between the Sheets” by The Isley Brothers, a song which is sampled often but rarely done so well on stage. The night was a success, and Slack Bridges have given us a taste of things to come.
I spoke to Gilmour about his past, and what drove him to form Slack Bridges.
Ottawa’s music community has been my primary binding force through which I’ve met innumerable creative people and learned some great lessons about community building. I’ve been making weird music for a while. With that in mind, I have always thought of music composition in a rather cerebral sense. Studying my fellow artists is how I’ve been inspired to challenge myself, while imitating pop culture is how I learned to have fun.
Soul and R&B music has been no exception. As an adult I had sung R&B ballads at karaoke to get a laugh from my friends, but as a child I grew up singing along to the first two Stevie Wonder and Boyz II Men records I had bought long before I knew the punk tradition existed. After some of my bands dissipated, it made experimenting with soul and R&B music more seriously in Slack Bridges and Gold Bonds a natural frontier for further exploration. I’m enjoying the ride.
About the Beer: Lug•Tread is the first Ottawa region craft beer I tried. It was at the beginning of my beer obsession and I was instantly enamoured with everything Beau’s made. I still am, of course. How could you not be? I see this beer as going back to basics. When it comes to basics musically, I hear and feel bass. It all started when a friend of mine called me up and said that he’d snuck around and found his Christmas gift… A bass! This was Grade 8 or so. To this day, he is on of my musical heroes. I fell in love with the bass after hearing him figure out Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, to jazz, and to funk. Cheers to Beau’s and my friend Denis “Turtle” Arsenault, I thank you for the influences!
Also, the last Lug•Tread I had was at Bass Line Station–perfect timing? It’s a great spot to hear local bands, which I discovered when I first moved to Ottawa. Lots of great memories there too!
The commercial description goes as follows:
Available year-round, LUG•TREAD LAGERED ALE is our award-winning, flagship beer. In developing it, we charged Matt (Matthew O’Hara, our brewmaster) with hand-crafting a beer with a unique style and history, that could be made naturally with certified organic malts & hops and that would be incredibly tasty and very drinkable. We brew this tasty golden ale and then lager it to create a beer like nothing else in Ontario.
“Mellowship Slinky in B Major” is funky gold. “Higher Ground” is a Stevie Wonder song that is better covered by RHCP. Don’t get me wrong, Steve is good… but Flea takes it to another level. Have a listen to “Around the World” too.
James Jamerson had funk running through his veins.
The entire music is ripped from Bernard Wright’s “Haboglabotribin.” The world renowned bass player/multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller does the honours of funking it up. Also give “Tha Shiznit” a listen.
It’s not often an eight-piece band comes along that fuses different rhythms and styles and genres of music with interchangeable instrumental roles. Not to mention a band that consists of eight brothers, all of whom grew up playing music together as kids.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble form Chicago, IL is one of those musical anomalies. I’m not going to go as far as directly comparing them to The Jackson 5, but the parallel is hard to resist. HBE consists of the eight sons of jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, and they are all frighteningly talented. They gained recognition in the late 1990s by playing in the cavernous depths of Chicago’s subway stations, showing off their talents and strikingly distinctive sound to those who passed by. Since their first recorded project Flipside in 2004, they have quickly become regarded as one of the most innovative, dynamic groups on the circuit today and have played many corners of the earth. Not only have they shared the stage with the likes of Mos Def, Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul, Prince, Femi Kuti, and Gorillaz, they have recorded with such artists as Erykah Badu, Ghostface Killah, Childish Gambino, Maxwell, Flea, and many more. Needless to say, this band was a huge addition to the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup this year.
Their set at the Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage attracted a crowd of old and young, many of whom probably experiencing HBE for the first time. People seemed a little hesitant at first, maybe not knowing how to react to a group that plays trumpets, baritone, sousaphone, and trombones on top of rapping and soul/funk/jazz-inspired rhythms. However, that didn’t last long. Even lots of folks who brought their lawn chairs into the area inevitably got up and started moving their bodies to the music they were hearing. I even tried my hand at dancing meringue, which ultimately ended up being horribly embarrassing.
The band got the crowd involved by getting the right side and left side to battle for loudest part of the audience, as well as getting the ladies and gentlemen to yell back and forth. This helped to electrify the people, giving the guys on stage even more energy. By playing songs such as “War” and “Party Started,” HBE provided me with the perfect soundtrack for drowning away my sorrows after my World Cup team, Chile, lost a heartbreaking game to Brazil which led to their elimination. The pain went away, if only for the duration of their set.
Those of us lucky enough to have caught HBE at TD Ottawa Jazzfest this year were given much more than our money’s worth. They’re performance alone was on par with David Byrne and St. Vincent at last year’s Jazzfest, not to mention how good the music sounded. As things come to a close, HBE was a highlight not only of the OLG After Dark Series, but of the festival as a whole.
One of Ottawa’s finest exports, Souljazz tore it up with their triple saxophone onslaught. Their latin-afro-funkadelic-soul stylings never disappoint. A stellar set from start to finish with great songs off their latest album Solidarity and some older tunes for the “old school Babylon” faithful. My night was complete when they dropped “Freedom no go die,” my favourite track. They even found time to have Gary “Slim” Moore, from New York, join them on stage Kingpin.
As always Pierre Chrétien, keys, and Philippe Lafrenière, drums, kept the band on track never missing a beat. Marielle Rivard treated the Francophones in the room signing a beautiful French number. All in all, you should never miss a Souljazz Orchestra show, and I am sure the sellout crowd would agree with me.
I wished for everyone to be early, not only so they could get in, but to check out Ikebe Shakedown. One of the most refreshing opening acts that I have seen in a long time. If you don’t want to dance to their funky trombone driven tunes, your are not alive. This seven piece from Brooklyn is so electric and contagious, with members from Lee Fields’ and Charles Bradley’s touring bands. Nadav Nirenberg laid down some mind blowing solos on the trombone. The band offers tons of unexpected beauty, like a flute solo on one track. And not to be outdone the bongos and sax unloaded on us to wrap up their set.